Basics of setting up a lab


  • Identify a space appropriate for a molecular biology laboratory
  • Evaluate any potential challenges in setting up your lab

A working genetics lab can be set up in almost any standard classroom science area.

There are a number of considerations when picking a room

  1. Ventilation
    1. Some chemicals can be harmful to inhale and some have flammable vapors. Choose a space with some airflow.
    2. Molecular biology experiments are sensitive to contamination from dust, pollen, etc. Close windows and avoid fans and blowing air.
  2. Temperature
    1. Room temperature is considered 20-25 °C or 68-77 °F
    2. Many of the chemicals in the kits are best stored at room temperature and you will often be instructed to incubate reactions at room temperature.
      1. If the temperature of the room is too cold, precipitates or crystals may form.
      2. Some reactions may not performed efficiently.
      3. If necessary, the circulating water bath can be set to 20-25 °C and room temperature reactions can be carried out.
  3. Lighting
    1. A good light source is important as you’ll be working with small items and small quantities.
    2. However, chemical are light-sensitive, especially to UV. Don’t store chemicals in sunlight. If necessary, cover containers with aluminum foil.
  4. Other considerations
    1. Linoleum floor: easy to clean, doesn’t absorb spilled chemicals
    2. Security: some of the equipment and supplies can be hazardous if handled improperly. Make sure everyone who uses the room is aware of basic laboratory safety rules. Lock cabinets!

There are a number of characteristics to look for when picking out a work area, or Lab Bench.

  1. Non-reactive surface: your lab bench shouldn’t absorb liquids and be easy to clean. A bench could also be covered with a heavy garbage bag for protection.
  2. Sturdy: some equipment, such as the centrifuge, require a steady, stable base.
  3. Electrified: the bench should be located near electric outlets as extension cords running across the floor are a tripping hazard.
  4. Ideally, a bench should be spacious. Some precision equipment, such as the scale, are sensitive to being moved and should have a permanent home on the bench-top.
  5. Ideally, a bench should be near a sink. For the safety of yourself and others, hands should be washed immediately after removing gloves and before touching anything else.

Other furniture

  1. Shelves: for storage and organization of frequently used items and supplies
  2. Cabinet: keeps things secure and dust-free when they’re not being used. Store chemicals in the cabinet to keep them out of the light.

Other equipment, regular househole versions of

  1. Microwave
  2. Refrigerator
  3. Freezer

NO FOOD! Put up signs to keep people from using them for food preparation and storage.